I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, People in America.
Today we tell about movie star Marilyn Monroe. She died many years ago, yet
still is one of the best known American women.
Her name at birth was Norma Jean Baker. Her life as a child was like a bad
dream. She lived with a number of different people, and often was mistreated.
At age 16 Norma Jean married a sailor. But she soon ended that marriage.
She changed her hair color from brown to shining gold. And she changed her name
to Marilyn Monroe.
She wanted to be an actress. And she succeeded. She appeared in a number of
Hollywood movies. Millions of people went to see them. By the time Norma Jean
had reached the age of 26, her beautiful face and body earned her a place as one
of America's leading movie stars.
But success and fame were not enough to make her happy. The troubles of her
childhood days stayed with her. She drank too much alcohol. She took too many
At the age of 36, she took her own life.
She has been dead since 1962. Still, her fame continues to grow.
People born long after she died are watching her movies on television.
Objects that belonged to her bring huge prices at public sales. The new Warner
Brothers museum in Hollywood has the white dress she wore in one of her movies,
"The Prince and the Showgirl. "
People continue to talk about what they feel is her strange death. Some
people believe she was murdered. Two investigations showed that she died as the
result of too many drugs.
Why is the public still so interested in a woman who died so many years ago?
A number of reasons. Her exciting but tragic life. Her connections with
well-known people. And her image as an especially desirable woman.
In the 1950s, many Americans believed sex was a very private subject. People
often severely judged those who were sexually appealing.
Into this atmosphere burst Marilyn Monroe. As one critic said, her body was
round in all the right places. She wore her clothes like skin. When she walked,
she moved her lower body in a way that few other actresses had done. Her voice
was soft and breathy. She soon became America's golden girl.
The story of Marilyn Monroe begins on June 1, 1926. Norma Jean was born that
day in the West Coast city of Los Angeles, California. Her birthplace was not
far from the Hollywood movie studios where she would someday be a star.
Her mother, Gladys Baker, suffered from mental problems. Often the mother had
to be treated in a hospital for long periods of time. Her daughter was sent to
live with a number of different people.
The actress later would describe her stays with these foster families as
sometimes very unhappy. During the worst experiences, she would go to a movie
theater. There the young Norma Jean escaped into the make-believe world of movies.
She would act all the movie parts after she went to a movie. She told this to
a long time friend, actor Ted Jordan, who later wrote a book about her.
By the time she was 17, Marilyn was trying very hard to be a movie actress.
She finally was able to get an actors' agent to help her. He got 20th Century
Fox Company to give Marilyn parts in some movies it produced.
Marilyn continued to change the way she had looked as Norma Jean. She had an
operation to improve the appearance of her nose. Her eyes were made to appear
larger. She began using a great deal of bright red lipstick on her mouth.
Marilyn may have worked more to improve her appearance than to improve her
performance in acting classes. Some people at Twentieth Century Fox said she did
not like to work at all. She appeared in only one movie. And she had only one
line to speak in that. The Fox movie company dismissed her.
Soon, however, her agent got her a job at Columbia Pictures. She appeared in
a movie called "Ladies of the Chorus. " She sang two songs. Several critics
praised her performance. But Columbia dismissed her.
Marilyn did not stop struggling. She next won a small part in a movie called
"Love Happy." It was a comedy starring the famous Marx Brothers. Critics said it
was not one of their better efforts. Marilyn, though, earned praise for simply
taking a short walk in the movie.
The movie called for her to say, "Some men are following me. " Groucho Marx
answered that he did not understand why. As he said that, he watched Marilyn
walk her famous walk. His eyes opened very wide.
That short scene in the movie made many people in Hollywood talk about
Marilyn got her first major chance when director John Huston invited her to
act in a movie called "The Asphalt Jungle. "
Huston said her performance as a criminal's girlfriend was good. It gained
Marilyn her dream of a long-term agreement with Twentieth Century Fox, the
company that had dismissed her earlier. Now its officials gave her a part in
"All About Eve." The movie, released in nineteen fifty, was about a movie star.
She played a golden-haired woman who did not have much intelligence -- "a dumb
In nineteen fifty-two, Marilyn again appeared as a dumb blonde in "Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes." This performance at last won her widespread fame.
Marilyn Monroe was now a lead actress, a star.
Huge successes now followed. Between 1953 and 1959 she
appeared in lead parts in many popular movies: "How To Marry a Millionaire."
"The Seven Year Itch." "Bus Stop." "Some Like it Hot."
Her part in "Some Like it Hot" showed that she was very good at making people
Marilyn's picture appeared on the front cover of many magazines and the front
pages of many newspapers. She began to earn more money.
Life should have been good. But Marilyn was not happy. She was being asked to
repeat her part as a dumb blonde in movie after movie.
She wanted to be accepted as a good actress. She went to the Actors' Studio
school in New York City with many serious actors. She thought she could change
the way people thought of her.
But she did not succeed. People thought of Marilyn Monroe as "that blonde
bombshell." Few people thought of her as a serious actress.
She also failed in her attempts at marriage. She admitted that she got
married the first time only to escape from being forced to live in a group home
for children without parents. In 1954 she married again. Her husband was
the famous New York Yankee baseball player, Joe Di Maggio. They were together
for only a few months.
Later, she tried again. She married Arthur Miller, a famous writer of plays.
That marriage ended unhappily in 1961, after five years.
Marilyn returned to Hollywood. But things were different now. Friends said
she was drinking too much alcohol. They said she was taking too many drugs.
She seemed to always be in trouble with the movie company. She had gained too
much weight. Or, she had not learned what she was to say in the movie. Or she
had arrived late for the filming.
By 1962, Marilyn's problems were threatening her work in the movies. She was
to appear in the Twentieth Century Fox movie called "Something's Got to Give.?
She lost weight for her part. She tried to arrive on time for the filming.
She reportedly knew her part. However, she became sick several times and missed
work. Fox company officials dismissed her.
On August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe died alone in her home. She was 36
years old. Reports said taking too many drugs killed her. But people who knew
her said failed marriages, and the failure of her latest movie also led to her
Many people said Marilyn Monroe never escaped her past. She continued to
suffer from the early, sad life of a little girl named Norma Jean.
This Special English program was written by Jeri Watson and directed by
Marilyn Christiano. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another People in
America program on the Voice of America.
to treat roughly or wrongly （虐待）